Ten minutes in Monte Carlo
I sit in a giant mirrored room with a constelllation ceiling and a purple, underlit dance floor. The Monte Carlo skyline shines through the floor to ceiling two-story windows. Thirty yards from me, a group of ten people are negotiating the start of a $25,000 game in which one of them stands to win about $150,000 for a couple hours work. The room is a mix of French perfume, poker players' body odor, beer, and tension. It's nearly midnight, a good four hours before players will call it quits for the night. The bulk of the people here are competing for a first prize that will eclipse $2 million American. Players range in age from 18 to near 80. Occasinally, a poker wife will push a pram through, a newborn cooing along with the hum of the crowd. Big-busted massage therapists dig into the taut muscles of road-weary players. In this room are people who gamble for $100 at a pop and guys who I have seen with a quarter million in real money chips in front of them at any given time.
Sometimes, in the middle of $25 cheeseburgers, $30 beers, and $35 scrambled eggs and bacon, it's easy to lose sigh of reality. I've fared pretty well so far this trip, hiding in my room when not working, staying sober, and trying to eat best I can. Still, it's a life that can suck you in fast. I should know. I've been sucked in and spit out more times than I can count.
The good thing is, there are a lot of good people and good friends around. Most of them are working harder than they are playing and that usually is a good indication of a person's life ethic. Among those friends is my buddy Pauly. He's running the show over at a poker news site and doing a bang-up job, despite an arm that won't stop hurting (I suggested he start pleasuring himself with the left...hear it feels like a stranger) and a newfound distaste for the extravagance. Over the many months we've spent on the road, I have taken many pictures of the guy. Never, and I mean never, does he fail to put something between him and the lens. And it's always the same thing. I may start calling him Birdman. Or Pauly Fingers.
Note: I avoided the squid and tomatoes at dinner and I'm glad I did.